By Don McIntosh
When members of the Portland chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) showed up at the union’s rented office building Jan. 24, they found it had been vandalized sometime the night before. A window that displayed a Black Lives Matter sign was broken, and the front walls were spray-painted “Antifa House” and “Smash Communism.”
Portland IWW is the labor organization behind union campaigns at Burgerville and non-profit Janus Youth Programs. The attack on its hall at 2249 E. Burnside Street came four days after leaders of the Vancouver-based group Patriot Prayer showed up there and confronted passersby and customers of the nearby Screen Door restaurant, shouting anti-Muslim taunts through a bullhorn. On Patriot Prayer’s Facebook page, the group said the visit was in response to several of its members having been physically assaulted after they were turned away from a meeting of the Democratic Socialists of America that was held there.
The term Antifa describes organized groups of “anti-fascists” such as the Portland group Rose City Antifa. In the public mind Antifa is best known for showing up in masks and tactical gear to confront white nationalists. Rose City Antifa and Patriot Prayer have clashed repeatedly in the streets of Portland since April 2017.
Effie Baum, a member of the general defense committee of Portland IWW, said IWW members won’t be deterred by the targeting of their office. If anything, it provoked a wave of public sympathy. In the days after, neighbors and supporters dropped by with pastries, flowers, and donations. Officers of Painters Local 10 and Glazers Local 740 offered volunteer union labor to repair the damage. The Northwest Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO, passed a resolution Jan. 28 calling it an attack on all unions. And a GoFundMe page that organizers hoped would raise $2,000, had $5,566 as of Jan. 28.
Baum said once the graffiti and window are repaired, IWW plans to use those funds to upgrade the building with security features and improve a wheelchair ramp to make the building more accessible.
“Whatever their goal was in spray-painting the house,” Baum said, “it actually had the opposite effect.”